Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scriabin, again

HPB’s name has much been in the London papers over the last fortnight in relation to performances of Scriabin’s works. In the August 25 London Evening Standard, the paper’s music critic, Barry Millington, reviewed the previous evening’s performance by the Sydney Orchestra of Scriabin’s Third Symphony (The Divine Poem) at the Proms (London’s 8 week summer concert series at the Royal Albert Hall), mentioning:

Scriabin was an eccentric and a visionary whose works were essentially vehicles for his mystical beliefs, influenced by the theosophist Madame Blavatsky. The Divine Poem is one such inspiration and enacts in part some sort of cosmic struggle involving the divinity and humanity.

This did not save it, for: It was not perhaps Ashkenazy’s [the conductor] fault if Scriabin’s ecstatic effusions sometimes seemed to disappear up their own metaphysics. Nor was it the fault of the players, who rose to the challenge of the score splendidly.

The Express of August 22 carries a review of another performance of Scriabin, this time his Symphony No 1, by the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, also at the Proms. The program featured Scriabin and Stravinsky, and the reviewer, Claire Colvin, noted

Scriabin's mysticism (he was a follower of theosophist Madame Blavatsky) may explain the formlessness of the six movement symphony which wafted like ectoplasm into a final ode to divinity. What a relief after that to hear Stravinsky's The Firebird, written for Diaghilev's ballet at the Paris Opera.

Scriabin died at the age of 45, 95 years ago. Apparently his sound is still too ahead of its time. Notice in the mention of Blavatsky there is now no need for a qualifier. She is simply “Madame Blavatsky” without the usual pejorative.

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